Monday, February 28, 2011

Kardashia Konfidential?

The day that anyone sees me reading a copy of kardashian Kondfidential is the day I should be confined to the loony bin permanently.

Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

Today I went with the PseudoRelatives to both a Roman Catholic mass and to the LDS three-hour church marathon. The mass was in the morning. We came home for a quick lunch, and then drove to PseudoUncle's parents' ward meetinghouse to attend Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, and Priesthood Meeting/Relief Society with them. I stayed with Pseudoaunt the entire time, which meant I had countless do-gooders trying to pry me away from PseudoAunt and drag me into Primary because I look like a little kid even though I'm seventeen. Pseudo-Aunt held onto me a little more firmly than they did and told them that she wanted me to stay with her. Even had the well-intentioned busybodies known my correct age, they still would have tried to drag me away from my PseudoAunt; they just would have tried to send me to youth Sunday School and the Young Women's meeting instead of to Primary. Either way, I was not going into any of those meetings by myself, and PseudoUncle's mom really wanted PseudoAunt to be with her and not in a class for teens. PseudoAunt would have looked like she belonged in a class of teens, and in the co-ed class, the boys would have been hitting on her nonstop, because she looks like a really hot high school sophomore, or somewhere around there.

PseudoUncle's parents' ward is also the ward of my dad's brother Michael and his family. I did not know this before today. If I had to meet up with a relative on Dad's side, Michael was probably the least of the evils (not counting Uncle Steve, whom I dearly love, or my Aunt Emilie, whom I hardly ever see because she lives in Europe). Uncle Michael, while I can't say I actually have any sort of a relationship with him, doesn't seem to despise
me. He recognized me, and after Sacrament Meeting was finished, he came over to where I was and said hello to me. He couldn't resist pointing out that his ten-year-old daughter has now passed me in size. I took it as an insult although I didn't react in such a way as to let others know. Perhaps he didn't intend it as a slight to me. He looks eerily like my dad. My Uncle Steve looks like them both, but not to the degree that they resemble each other. He's a year younger than my Uncle Steve and was on his mission at the time I was blessed against my will in an LDS church. Maybe that's why I don't hate Uncle Michael -- he didn't participate in the virtual hog-tying that took place in order to immobilize me for the blessed event.

We had dinner at PseudoUncle's parents' house. The main course was turkey, which is something I like, and his mom is an excellent cook. PseudoUncle and I, however, did not reach any sort of consensus as to how much I should eat. He behaved in a more anal manner than he usually does. He put food on my plate and told me that I was not to get up from the table until I had eaten it all. My friend, who is his nephew Jared, stayed at the table with me. Jared, who is sixteen, really likes to eat, so he had thirds while I was trying to finish my firsts. PseudoUncle told him there would be he!! to pay if he ate any of my food. The others were watching the Oscars in an adjacent room. (This is one reason I really like PseudoUncle's family. Many Mormons would not watch the Oscars because it was on a Sunday. The PseudoExtendedFamily doesn't get so caught up in all the Sadducee/Pharisee silliness.) PseudoUncle positioned himself so that he could watch both me and the Oscars.

It is pointless for me not to do what PseudoUncle tells me to do. I'm not sure what he would have done about it if I had attempted to get up from the table after he had told me to stay there, but whatever he did, I could not possibly win because he's too much bigger, stronger, and faster than I am. It took me awhile, but I ate everything he told me to eat. After I finished, he motioned for me to come over to where he was. He gave me a hug and told me I was a good girl.

PseudoUncle is better at making me do things I don't want to do than my dad is. When my dad disciplines me or tries to make me eat, he makes me very angry. When PseudoUncle does the same thing, it makes me want to try to do better at whatever it was that I screwed up. When we got into the car to return home from PseudoUnmcle's parents' house, I was apprehensive because I was sure I would hear about how much I had embarrassed them and what a complete failure I am as a person. He didn't even say a word about my eating, and PseudoAunt didn't either. When we got home, he said that there was one thing PseudoAunt and I could both do that would make him very happy: we could each eat a bowl of oatmeal and a banana before we went to bed. I ate mine right away. PseudoAunt had to do her chest physiotherapy first because it's not good to be held upside down and to have your thorax thumped for a long time right after you eat, but she ate her oatmeal after Pseudo-Uncle finished the physiotherapy. When someone asks really nicely, a nice person wouldn't want to disappoint him or her.

PseudoAunt asked me if I still have a crush on PseudoUncle. I didn't realize she knew that I used to. I quite honestly told her no, I don't, because he's too much like a dad now for me to have a crush on him. He is hot, but when someone is so much like a father, crushes aren't really part of the picture.

I still love my dad and wouldn't trade him. He sings and plays the best goodnight songs and gives the best backrubs and is the person I most want when I'm sick or scared. PseudoUncle is a better motivator, though.

Tomorrow we're snowboarding again. Yippee!!! We're leaving at 9:45 or so, and we'll head back at around 3:00, with a big lunch in the middle. PseudoUncle says PseudoAunt and I burn too many calories to snowboard for longer, plus my leg got a little sore the last time. PseudoUnlce is going to splint it this time to see if that helps. PseudoAunt is ready for the most challenging slopes, which may cause her to expend even more energy. This is another reason we'll go for a shorter time. I don't mind. I'm just very happy that we get to snowboard at all.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bobby Flay, the Female Edition

The Pseudorelatives had dinner with some friends at their apartment tonight. I cooked teriyaki chicken and rice for them. Their friends brought some side dishes and dessert. It's nice to be able to help them. PseudoAunt could cook but she gets tired and needs to rest. They have a lady who cooks meals for them and delivers the food to their apartment about four nights a week. This works out fine unless the food is meatloaf and PseudoUnc is in a foul mood. I cannot say anymore un;ess I want to risk a Vitamin B12 overdose.

Last night I went with the Pseudos to a dinner for her that was hosted by her former colleagues at the elementary school where she taught. It was a surprise. I can scarcely believe that she didn't suspect something, because PseudoUnc practically gave it away about thirty times. He never told me, but I knew. I didn't know it was her teacher friends hosting it, but I could tell it was something in her honor.

The entertainment portion of the night last night was a skit where a guy who worked there who had really hairy legs wore a Halloween Pocahontas costume (I had no idea they even made such large Pocahontas costumes) and pretended to be PseudoAunt. She must have been a complete hoot as a teacher. The skit was based on some of her actions in the time she taught at their school. She was always doing something dramatic. One time a real brat went in a lake created by excess rain water. The kid refused to come out, and the vice-principal said his teacher had to go in and get him. His teacher was something like ten months pregnant, so of course PseudoAunt had to come to the rescue. The kid wouldn't emerge willingly, so what it basically amounted to was PseudoAunt and a kindergartner mud-wrestling for several minutes before she overpowered him and dragged him to dry land. (She's tiny.) The reason the guy wore the Pocahontas costume is that the sixth graders had started calling her Pocahontas behind her back because of her long black hair, and the name stuck.

I'm staying in Utah until Thursday night. Why the director is allowing my stay to continue for so long is a complete mystery to me, but I'll take it. I do hope we snowboard at least one more time, although I'm not asking because I would seem ungrateful when they've already taken me snowboarding three times to want to go again.

It's amazing that I've been here over two weeks and still haven't run into any of my relatives who live in the area. (That would be the good kind of amazing, by the way.) I usually run into them at least once every trip. I am going to a Mormon church tomorrow, which certainly increases the chance that i'll run into at least one. In the past they haven't been in PseudoUncle's parents' ward, but I think the ward boundaries were realigned since last summer.

I really wish we could drive down south and go to a polygamous ward. I wouldn't want to spend the whole day in services, as the polygs usually do, but an hour's worth of polyg church would be fun. When we went before, we dressed as polygs. PseudoUnc was my dad and PseudoAunt was my stepmom. PseudoAunt wanted us both to be his wives, but PseudoUnc said that was positively gross and would make him look like a pedophile. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he already looks like a pedophile. he looks his age, which is twenty-seven; his wife looks like she's about fourteen. (She's really twenty-three.)

PseudoUnc's nephew and I are going out for pizza on Tuesday night. I mentioned to PseudoAunt that if we ever went snowboarding again, it would be fun to invite him.He has school, but he could surely ditch for one day.

The Pseudos' company finally left. I'll go downstairs and wash the dessert dishes now. They don't expect me to do it, but I like to be helpful except when I'm at home. I'm helpful there as well, but not by choice.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Life Has Settled Down

My mom is speaking to me again. She doesn't want me to discuss her PMS so much here, so for now I will need to humor her.

I love my dad. Even though he is at times irrational, he is kind to me when no one else is.

The pseudorelatives are dealing with whatever life throws at them. I'm glad they're no longer angry with me, because I hate it when they are. This is especially true when I am living with them, but I don't like being on the outs with them under any circumstances. Some really strange happenings went down tonight, but I don't think they would want me sharing most of them, so I won't. PseudoUncle has been highly stressed by medical school, which surely must be uncommonly stressful. It is also stressful to be in the way of medical students when they are feeling stressed. In a small condo it is sometimes difficult to find a place to be that is sufficiently far out of the way to avoid being hit by the residual fallout of that stress. Being part of a family sometimes means I have to take the good with the bad.

PseudoAunt mentioned tonight after PseudoUncle went to bed (he was REALLY exhausted) that I had never asked any questions about her recently diagnosed condition of cystic fibrosis. She was diagnosed with it at twenty-three, which is very unusual. The condition is usually detected in neonatal screening. The fact that she had it for twenty-three years before anyone realized she had it is a good sign, but it's still not as though she was symptom-free all those years. She does have the same long-term effects that any CF patient would have, which is, namely, lung scarring from repeated infections.

I told PseudoAunt that my dad had instructed me specifically not to ask questions, and that I hoped she didn't think I was unconcerned because I hadn't asked her about it. My reasons for not asking were that I didn't want to pry or be nosy in the event that there were things about which she didn't want people in general or me in particular to know, and also that I didn't want to be in trouble with my dad if he found out I had asked questions after having been told point blank not to say anything.

PseudoAunt said she appreciated both my and my dad's respect for her privacy, but that I should feel comfortable asking her anything I want to know. It can remain between the two of us, and she won't even mention it to my dad. She said that she never mistook my silence on the subject as a lack of concern; she correctly assumed that I was following orders. She said if there is something she tells me about her CF that I shouldn't share in a blog, she will tell me. Anything else can be shared. I suppose that negates the part about her not telling my dad that we talked about it, but since she brought it up, it's probably OK.

I was curious in a concerned way about her prognosis. She said she really doesn't know other than the obvious answer that no one expects her to expire anytime soon. Her specialists will have a better answer in about a year in terms of how rapidly her illness is progressing or if it's in some sort of remission or holding pattern.

I also asked about childbearing in relation to her condition. She's not yet certain, but at this point her doctors are saying that chances are she'll be able to bear a child or two. They don't want her to get pregnant until they have enough of a handle on her condition that it is safe for her to go almost a year without invasive diagnostic procedures. She said a large obstacle in terms of her having children will be to convince her husband that it's a safe bet. Under the very best of circumstances a pregnancy will take some toll on her; pregnancy typically impacts even perfectly healthy women to at least a slight degree. Her husband feels strongly that a life without their own biological children is preferable to a life without her. Even if the doctors OK pregnancy and her husband is convinced it's safe, fertility could be an issue. It's typically less an issue for women than men with CF, but PseudoAunt has so much difficulty keeping weight on that her cycles are affected. A woman can be too thin to ovulate. PseudoAunt has been thin enough for her cycles to be interrupted for quite some time. Until her CF diagnosis in December, she didn't know why. Now she's trying hard to gain weight, though not just for fertility reasons.

PseudoUncle asked my dad for the formula for my growth shakes. I immediately felt very sorry for PseudoAunt when I learned of this. I have been plagued with having to drink the disgusting growth shakes for several years, and I wouldn't wish the experience on my worst enemy, much less one of my two favorite relatives in the entire world. PseudoAunt says it's OK and I don't have to feel sorry for her in that regard. She says the shakes are not THAT disgusting and that they are a quick source of major calories and nutrients. I still feel sorry for her. I try to be a positive influence on her by drinking the shakes without excessive whining when I am with her, but I don't always succeed.

This may seem out of the blue but, for what it's worth, smoking is really stupid. Anyone who would consider taking up the habit now in the face of all the available information of just how harmful the practice is has to be a total moron.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sticks, Stones, Words, Judge Alex, Bullying, Bologna, PMS, the Pseudos, and Other Various and Sundry Sub-Topics

Lest any of my approximately twelve readers read this blog and comment that the ideas expressed are random and not necessarily pertinent to my topic, I've given this entry a broad title. All of those subtopics will not necessarily be covered in the course of this entry, but I reserve the right to stumble onto them, perhaps randomly and without warning or transition. If I don't touch upon each one, I may edit the heading. Then again, maybe I won't. It all depends upon just how lazy I am feeling after I finish what I have started here.

The blog I posted on Saturday disturbed a hornet's nest, metaphorically speaking. I directed Judge Alex to it. He apparently read it and complimented me on it. (The apparently referred to whether or not the judge read it. He indicated he did. He did compliment me on it. Perhaps he just tweets that back to everyone who sends him a link to something they've written. I really don't know.) My PseudoAunt also read it and was initially fine with it. Then my mom, who had read my blog and was most definitely not fine with it, convinced my PseudoAunt that she was not fine with it, either. A friend of PseudoAunt's also read it and was somewhat dismayed by something I had included. My PseudoUncle, who had expressed no opposition to the contents, also became upset, not because of the contents per se, but because they upset his wife, and so he had an obligation to be upset with me in support of her and in the interest of marital harmony.

Most of the blog was about either the topic of bullying itself or about Judge Alex's two-part special on the topic. Nothing in that portion of the blog was remotely controversial. What created the contention was something at the end of the second paragraph. I had included facetious comments my PseudoUncle made to his wife in regard to "Judge Alex." I thought that the comments were so obviously not true in any literal or figurative sense that their inclusion would hardly constitute an invasion of anyone's privacy. My suspicion is that my PseudoAunt felt this way as well. Furthermore, I did not use the names of either PseudoAunt or PseudoUncle in the blog. Between the relatively benign nature of the reference in the post and the anonymity of my pseudorelatives, I was unconcerned that anyone should feel "outed" by my blog.

One thing I learned, which I should have learned from many years of living in my parents' home, is that one should never underestimate the power of PMS. An otherwise harmless word, sigh, or eye-roll can take on the significance of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor when PMS is also a factor. PMS may very well have doubly impacted my situation.

My intention was never to embarrass anyone. Had I actually heard the Pseudos arguing because PseudoAunt had inadvertently called out Judge Alex's name during an intimate moment (THIS NEVER HAPPENED, BY THE WAY), I would never have passed such a thing along. For the record, PseudoUncle was JOKING when he made the infamous remark within earshot of me. Nothing that either PseudoAunt or PseudoUncle said gave any indication that there was even a shard of seriousness in PseudoUncle's light-hearted comments or in Pseudo-Aunt's response.

Words began getting me into trouble shortly after I uttered my first ones well before I reached one year of age. Something about hearing the words, "Similac, b!tch!" when she was trying to serve me SMA formula in my bottle must have really rubbed my mother the wrong way. The previous sentence was entirely a joke, by the way. If I had called my mom the female-dog word, we would have found out just how true or untrue was the Fisher-Price corporation's claim that the high chairs they manufactured and marketed would NOT tip over under any circumstances, because my mom probably would have slapped both me AND the high chair at least into the next county even if PMS had not been a factor.

Still I seem to have always had a penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. When I started writing, the tendency to write the wrong thing at the wrong time logically followed. Sometimes it was simply that I expressed my opinion when someone in charge -- usually a teacher -- didn't want to hear it. At other times it was actually what I said and/or how I said it. At other times still, it was the perceptions of others regarding what I said. In the ensuing state discombobulation created by response to my recent blog (only a fraction of the response about which I had the pleasure of learning actually appears in my "Comments" section), an acquaintance wrote to me, "You have entered into your inheritance as a writer. When you write about what is happening around you as you see it, you will pay a price for having done so." The person went on to suggest that the price for writing, even in an obviously non-literal sense, about the sex lives of those who have authority over me is very likely too high a price to pay with regard to the relative benefits I might conceivably derive for having ventured into the particular forbidden territory.

Bottom line: Pseudos, I'm terribly sorry for any pain or embarrassment I may have caused you. I'm not offering to apologize to anyone else because no one else could logically been harmed in any way by my blog.

In investigating this website, I discovered that the site offers bloggers statistics in order to track their readers. I rarely take advantage of this capacity. One particular feature provides a blogger with specific searches that led readers to their blogs. I scrolled down this list of searches. One search that led a reader to my blog was [verbatim] "Is there human flesh in bologna." I recall mentioning bologna sandwiches once in a blog about the garbage that was being served in my ward of the hospital at which I'm being treated. I never followed the subject so far as to wonder what was actually in the bologna that the hospital attempted to serve us. Perhaps I should have. Readers, if there are any of you left, please answer the searcher's query, rhetorical though it may be: Is there human flesh in bologna?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Judge Alex's Two-Part Series on Bullying

Pseudo-Auntie and I finished two sets of tennis on indoor courts at a nearby university. She won, which was no surprise. She played four years of NCAA Division I tennis, as compared to my one year of high school tennis. The very first time the two of us ever played, it was obvious that she was going incredibly easy on me. At that time I had not yet decided to give up competitive tennis. I asked her not to give games or even points away to me because I would never know how I was doing against her if she didn't play her best against me. When we play she typically kills me, but I should usually win a single game out of two sets. If I don't, or if I win more, we can try to figure out if I'm getting better or if she's getting worse. Since I rarely play anymore, we now know for certain that she's getting worse. She's not worried about it. She said that when she starts losing to PseudoUncle, she'll start worrying.

When we got home, it was time for Part Two of Judge Alex's special series on bullying. Yesterday we watched Part One of the series. "Judge Alex" is one of the things PseudoAuntie and I have in common. No one else in either of our families is totally enamored of Judge Alex's courtroom TV program, although my dad watches it with me on occasion. When we DVR the program at the Pseudos' home and watch it in the evening, we have to put up with PseudoUncle's annoying commentary about Judge Alex's dreamy eyes or winning smile, or how closely he resembles PseudoAunt's father. PseudoUncle likes to make jokes about PseudoAunt's Electra complex. He's even said a few things when he thought I was out of earshot about how PseudoAunt closes her eyes when they're making love so that she can pretend PseudoUncle is Judge Alex. I know. It nearly made me ill as well.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the bullying special. It was well-done; not Earth-shatteringly informative, but good. Some of what was said may have come as more of a shock to someone removed from the trenches of elementary or secondary school for many years, although my parents assure me that bullying was around when they were kids, too. My dad, who served a two-year mission for his parents' church when he was nineteen, likes to periodically spout out some of the many scriptures he was forced to memorize. Though he's not particularly religious now, he probably does this more than anything because he hates to think of all the space in his brain occupied by scriptures as being basically wasted memory space. Anyway, when we were dicussing bullying once, he brought up Biblical accounts of bullying, including Joseph (of technicolor coat fame) who was first thrown into a hole in the ground, then sold into slavery by a large pack of brothers who ganged up on him.

When I was in eighth grade, my English teacher did a quarter-long unit on journalism in which we had to write editorials, usually focusing upon current events. If anyone wrote an editorial on, say, a recent earthquake, the main point of which was that earthquakes are bad, that person would have had his or her paper returned with a big fat "DUH!" written in red ink along with a letter grade of "F." The point I am trying to make is that writing or saying something to the effect of "bullying is bad" or "bullying is wrong" is obvious to the point of redundancy. Even Charles Manson or Satan himself would probably agree that bullying is not a good thing. Questions arise only in regard to what can be done to stop or to prevent it or even to the more rhetorical, "What is bullying?".

Most people generally agree that bullying of a physical nature is indeed bullying and is wrong. While it is, as Judge Alex brought up, sometimes misclassified as a fight, in general school authorities and parents agree that it is wrong for one student to hit, push, kick, spit on, steal from, or damage the property of another, and such behavior is usually met with consequences. Such actions are clearly illegal, furthermore, and the fact that the perpetrator and victim are minors or that the actions occurred in a school does little or nothing to make it more legal.

Verbal bullying is harder to agree upon and more difficult against which to levy consequences. The premise of freedom of speech as detailed in the First Amendment, while clearly not absolute, sometimes gives misguided students and their equally misguided parents the false perception that they have the legal right to speak their minds freely even if others are harmed in the process. Thus, parents are not always supportive of school administrators' attempts to protect students from verbal bullying. An added complication is that most students who verbally harass other students don't make it a point to do so in the presence of a vice-principal or another school authority, which leads to allegations and denials concerning verbal bullying. Still, eventually verbal bullies usually slip up in the presence of teachers or administrators. When a student is caught red-handed or red-mouthed, school authorities need to operate under the assumption that it is probably not the first time the perpetrator has verbally abused or the victim has suffered abuse, and should levy consequence and heighten supervision accordingly.

Bullying of a social nature, while devastating, is tough for school authorities to combat. Where overt threats are involved, clear lines have been crossed. Sometimes these threats take place outside of school, however, and often through text messages or social networks. School authorities may have limited power over students guilty of using social networks for bullying purposes. Furthermore, if the rumors spread are unkind but true, spreading them via Facebook or any other medium can hardly be termed libelous. Other forms of social bullying, such as exclusion or silence, are tough to regulate. Teachers can force students to interact with others in class, but how do school authorities force students to talk to each other in the cafeteria or elsewhere on school grounds? Perhaps the best they can do in this regard is to be sufficiently vigilant that overt bullying doesn't take place.

Judge Alex stated that some schools address bullying, while others do not. I assume the judge would not have made such an assertion without some supporting research. The schools I have attended have addressed bullying, although probably with varying degrees of success. In group sessions at the mental heaalth facility from which I am currently on furlough, the topic has been approached by therapists. Some inpatients have been victims of bullying, while others claim not to have been. (One would expect teens admitted to an inpatient mental health facility to be at a higher risk for victimization by bullies, although I have no research to support this hypothesis.) None of the teens in my groups suggested that their schools turned a blind eye to bullying, although, again, some reported effective handling of situations, while others gave reports of marginal competence in the area. My mom, who is a licensed clinical psychologist although she's not currently practicing as such, said that in the olden days when she was in school (she's 46 now), the common perception among educators was that the victim was doing something to cause himself to be a victim, and that it was best left to the kids to sort such things out themselves. Only when kids were physically injured did anyone typically intervene.

There clearly isn't an easy answer to the problem of bullying. It seems ironic to me that even though school authorities often did nothing about bullying in previous generations unless laws were broken in the process, more students today are driven to such extreme measures as suicide by the effects of bullying. Society as a whole seems less civilized, and the world seems a meaner place, than it perhaps was in the one or two preceding generations. Perhaps bullying, too, has taken on a meaner form. Also affecting the seriousness of today's bullying may be the presence of a cell phone in every kid's hand and the pervasiveness of social networks. In earlier years, one usually took refuge from the bullying of outsiders once one reached his or her home. Other than the rare harassing phone call on the family line, the sanctity of home was essentially impenetrable to bullies. Such is, unfortunately and obviously, no longer the case.

Some aspects of the conundrum of bullying were left unexamined by Judge Alex. Is every incidence of alleged bullying truly a case of bullying? Has bullying become such a buzz word that it is to the 2010's what child molestation was to the 1980's (think McMartin preschool), which would be, in essence, a modern-day witch hunt? While every allegation of bullying must be checked out, caution must be taken not to apply the word where it doesn't apply. For the record, each scenario featured on Judge Alex's two-part series clearly met the litmus test for bona fide bullying. The case of the thirteen-year-old boy who took his own life was particularly heartbreaking.

Bullying isn't a problem that is fixable in a two-part series, a fact of which Judge Alex Ferrer surely is aware. Furthermore, bullying will probably never disappear completely as long as humans populate the Earth. Still, the only way to keep bullying from affecting young people to the extent that it indisputably has is to discuss it openly. Parents of both bullies and victims must be aware of the signs for which they need to be on alert, and young people who are victims need to know that if bullying has gotten to the point that they no longer feel capable of dealing with it, help is available.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Minor Updates

I was packing last night for my return trip to California when PseudoAunt came into my room (technically her own guest room) and asked me if I wanted to stay for longer. Of course I'd like to stay for longer, just as I'd like to be 5'6" and have breasts, or have Christmas twice every year, and I don't mean the LDS tradition of a lame homespun imitation of the real thing on April 6. I didn't voice all of this to her; I somewhat censor my thoughts before voicing them around here, which is why the pseudos still somewhat like me.

The director of my facility called Pseudo-Unc. and asked him if they minded keeping me here for another week. He asked the Pseudos before mentioning it to either my parents or to me so that they wouldn't have to harm my supposedly fragile psyche or otherwise look like the bad guys if they had plans for the next week into which I did not fit or if they simply didn't want to have me around for so long at a stretch. It was a moot point, because the Pseudos were amnable to hosting me for anpther week plus change.

A less cynical person wouldn't so thoroughly inspect this gift horse's teeth. I, however, cannot refrain from speculating about the director's motives. After communicating with fellow inmates at the facility, none of whom have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed an already-week-long furlough, I've concluded that it may have some connection to the recreation rapist's folk-dancing course of study this week, which will evolve to a square dancing unit next week.

The other inmates, or at least the ones with whom I've been in communication, were less than enthralled with the forced folk dancing fivolity, but are offended, insulted, and otherwise not pleased with having square dancing forced upon them. I advised them to first attempt a sick-out. Next they could try feigning enthusiasm to such a degree that only the rapist falls for it, which would cause her to appear foolish to all the other personnel. I said they could try this, because it's not something I would do, but if they need an intermediate step between the sick-out and the real plan just to buy time, it's the best I can come up with off the top of my head. Next, they should turn the daily square dancing fests into dirty dancing extravasganzas. It's not easy to make square dancing an R-rated activity, but I gave a few suggestions. I would have recommended pretending to pass contraband around during the square dancing sessions, but we don't want anyone arrested. Actually, with fake contraband -- something that would anger the rapist but turn out to be totally harmless -- it's feasible. Diversions of a more lame nature have surely been perpetrated.

In any event, The Director must really want me out of the picture for some good or sinister reason if he's allowing me an unplanned extention. (The Driector needs a better name. The only thing that comes to mind is "Dear Leader" a la Kim Jong Il, though the Korean pronunciation would be preferable. Please respond in the comments section with other suggestions.) I'm deeply grateful that the Pseudos are willing to play hosts for an additional week. I hope my last sentence didn't read as sarcasm. I meant it sincerely. The Pseudos treat me kindly and make life fun. I try to make up for the inconvenience of having me underfoot by doing at least my share of the labor. I'm used to it when I'm home, anyway. With both parents working, my brother and I have needed to pitch in since we were farily small.
There's not as much work to do at the Pseudos' place because it's small (though more than twice the square footage of their old apartment) and there are only the two of them plus me. Dishes, laundry, and basic housekeeping are all that really need to be done.

PseudoAunt and I are playing tennis in a short time. It's something I haven't done much of recently, but it's a fun diversion. PseudoAunt is far better than I, but I can at least keep the ball in play for a few exchanges. She won't need to run today if we play a couple of sets. One of PseudoUnc's relatives is taking me diving and hurdling tomorrow. My season will begin soon.

On Tuesday we went snowboarding after the anti-nausea meds PseudoUnc gave me
took effect. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed skiiing when I was a kid. It had been awhile since I'd been on the slopes, but I seemed not to have lost too much skill, and snowboarding was very similar. After a couple of runs it actually seemed easier and more fun than skiing. We're going again next week. It gives PseudoUnc something to hold over PseudoAunt's head in order to persuade her to eat. Weekdays are best because fewer people are at the resorts, thus shortening wait time between runs.

For anyone sufficiently desperate for entertainment to have read this blog, I apologize for the mundane essence of the post. For record-keeping purposes I needed to note basic information. I'll attempt to tackle a more cerebral topic soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Not Sleeping Tonight

In the wee hours of Monday morning we had prowlers here at the Pseudos' condo. It was a bizarre occurrence, but no one was ever in any danger as a result, with the possible exception of the young prowlers. I'll tell the story soon, because it was bizarre in an "only in Utah" sort of way.

The only real issue is that, despite having been up since the prowlers showed up at 3:38 a.m. on Valentine's Day, I haven't been able to fall asleep tonight. It has nothing to do with the child predator that one of the prowlers pretended to be. (That't the "only in Utah" aspect that I'll soon detail.) It's just my general state of unease compounded by the knowledge that I really needed to be asleep hours ago because I'm slated to snowboard for the first time in a few hours, and I need possession of all my faculties in order to do so successfully.

I do not rationally believe that a polygamous abductor of adolescent and pre-adolescent women is lurking outside the window of the room where I am lying awake. For that matter, I don't even believe that my tormentors from my home city have made the trek to Utah to torment me further. Still, I just don't feel right and cannot rest.

This has been a fun trip for me, with only one vaguely unpleasant happening (which was 100% my own fault, and for which I was treated more than fairly) and I so hate to spoil tomorrow's fun for myself or for anyone else. I'm now experiencing some nausea and vomiting associated with my general state of anxiety. This does not bode well, either, in terms of the outlook of the snowboarding expedition for me personally.

I'm going to log off now so that if things do go poorly later in the day, none of the adults in charge of me will think I created the problems by amusing myself online all night.

G'nite, all. I hope any readers in proximate time zones are asleep, and I hope to join you in a state of slumber soon if only for a brief interval. A little sleep is better than none at all before a strenuous cold-weather activity.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Director

Pseudo-Uncle haa been nagging me to write this post, but then he wouldn't let me have my computer when we got home from dinner. His bratty little nephew pushed me into a bank of wet snow before I had gotten into my coat at dinner, and I got really cold. The adults wrapped me in warm blankets and wouldn't let me out until now. You don't get sick from being a little cold, but these people are incredibly cautious. Anyway, back to the topic at hand, which is my hospital departement's Director of Medicine, otherwise known as Dr. Jeff. Dr. Jeff, if you happened to read my last blog and miraculously have some recall of it (it wasn't very memorable), had ueged me to write in more depth about the Pseudos because I had made them out to be rather flat characters who exist in my writing solely as pawns in my little world. Pseudo-Uncle, charitable man that he is, particualrly after learning that he had passed his last set of exams of his medical school career (way to go, Scott!!!), thought he should return the favor, and urged me to write about The Director. I'm a guest in Scott's home for the week, so I owe it to him to do as he asks. Nothing I write here is my fault, Dr. Jeff. Pseudo-Uncle made me write it.

Dr. Jeff is an old friend of my dad's from medical school, but I didn't know him well. He and my dad were ushers and groomsmen in each other's weddings before I was born. My parents and Dr. Jeff and his wife skied together on a no-kids retreat virtually every winter since my dad and Dr. Jeff graduated from medical school. Dad and Dr. Jeff looked enough alike to have been mistaken for each other on a fairly regular basis when they were med students. The resemblance has diminished a bit as Dr. Jeff has matured to basically look his chronological age of forty-seven (sorry, Dr. Jeff), while my dad still passes for being in his late twenties. I had met Dr. Jeff a couple of times when he adn his family were passing through and stopped at our home, but the two of us were not well acquainted.

When the unfortunate events of the past fall caused me to have anxiety attacks, nightmares,flashbacks, and all manner of psychological trauma, and the trauma didn't dissipate in the first four weeks as it should have, my parents felt that their best option in seeking treatment for me was to send me to a hospital at which the child and adolescent mental health programs were overseen by Dr. Jeff. Dr. Jeff would not be providing my medical or psychological treatment, for the most part, as it isn't sound practice to treat the child of close friends, and, furthermore, it seems he had a great deal of pre-existing knowledge concerning me long before my parents even considered having me admitted to his hospital. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why, when adults get away from their kids for a few days, all they talk about is their kids. When I have kids, I will not trash talk them to my friends on a regular basis.

So I was at Dr. Jeff's facility, unbeknownst to me. In retrospect, I had seen him observing me in the distance at the facility, but I thought little of it. The last time I had seen him prior to being admitted to his hospital, he was sporting a beard and mustache, and he was clean shaven by the time I entered the hospital. My first face-to-face interaction with him occurred right after the time I snuck out of the facility to go jogging and was sent to his office as a consequence, as though he was the principal or something. There, in his office, I saw photos on the wall that made it clear the man was not a virtual stranger to me.

Since that time, Dr. Jeff has been more openly observing me. He still doesn't provide my formal therapy or evaluation, but he finds excuses to poke his nose into my business on a fairly regular basis. Staff members feel free to rat me out to him any time I am uncooperative, which is typically when I'm being forced to drink growth shakes or to eat something I don't like, but occasionally at other times as well. Then I am summoned to Dr. Jeff's office, where we engage in verbal sparring matches in which he accuses me of opposing him because of my need to oppose my father, who is not physically present for me to oppose. He says that the reason I rebel against my father is that I know he will not let me out of our parent-child relationship even if I behave in an obnoxious and oppositonal manner, but that I am afraid to oppose my mother because I do not have the same level of trust in her.

It's good that he isn't my case manager or therapist of record, because he's far from calm or objective when he deals with me. Our office sessions usually begin with him asking me why I think I'm there, and my suggesting either that I don't know why I was sent there or giving some totally bogus reason in order to distract him. He's incredibly easy to distract. It amazes me that the man had a sufficient attention span to make it through high school, much less through college and medical school.

For example, the time I organized the food boycott where all any of us in the ward threw our dinner entrees in the trash but heaped spoonfuls of mayonnaise onto our trays and ate it because the psych staff member in charge of observing the meal had disclosed that she loathed mayo so much that even watching someone eat a hamburger or sandwich with a liberal amount of it would make her throw up. I just pretended to eat it. In truth, I hate mayonnaise almost as much as the psych staff member we were grossing out. If I had been in the Donner Party and had been offered the options of a serving of mayo, death by starvation, or a piece of Tamsin Donner's leg to eat, I'm not sure which of the latter two options I would have selected, but I know I wouldn't have eaten the mayonnaise.

One staff member (whose identity shall remain undisclosed in any form because the person is a true friend to crazy people) had clued me in that Dr. Jeff had a big jar of mayo in his office and was going to make me taste some since I professed to be so fond of the stuff. He must have remembered from some earlier incident my parents had related to him just how much I detest the greasy white glop. I knew I had to go to Plan B, which I save for my very worst crises.

Anyway, my parents don't even know this (they do now), but I can dislocate my left arm at the elbow at will just by twisting it in a funny direction. It doesn't even hurt when I dislocate it, and I can put it back into place myself almost as easily as I can dislocate it. I actually hurt it once on the uneven bars in gymnastics when I was little, and while one of the coaches was trying to reach my parents, I accidentally snapped it back into place myself. I convinced the coach not to call my parents because I hated medical treatment even then. I should have been a Christian Scientist or a member or the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn or one of those other churches that kills off its kids by not getting medical treatment for them.

Since then, I discovered that my left arm is easy to dislocate and pop back into place. It was once my talent in a talent show at tennis summer camp. The kids voted on the winner, and I beat everyone including juggler and the kid who could play tuba and piano at the same time. My parents saw the trophy and assumed I had played the piano to win the competition. My brother didn't rat me out. My uncle, as the camp owner and operater, didn't bore himself with plebian matters such as the talent shoe, and thus had no knowledge of it to impart to my parent.

Dr. Jeff had me summoned as usual. I twisted my arm out of its socket at the elbow right before going into his office. He started with general small-talk stuff. I'm sure he was trying to lull me into a false sense of well-being before springing for the kill. Just as he appeared to be getting close to mentioning the actual reason for my presence in his office, I rested my left arm briefly on the arm rest of the chair in which i was seated and began biting the fingernails on my right hand. Then I moved as though I was planning on biting my left fingernails, but winced as though it hurt to move the arm, but minimized it as though I didn't want to let on that I was in pain. I quickly moved the arm to my side using my good arm.

He caught the bait, noticing the protruding bone. "What happened to your arm?" he demanded.

"Nothing. It's fine," I insisted, pulling the sleeve down as far as it would go. He forced me to show him my arm. I eventually lied and told him it happened when I was trying to do Chinese pushups (a stupid form of pushups that I'm sure no one in China has ever heard of, and I, for one, certainly don't waste my time doing). He mentioned X-raying my arm, but finally decided just to put it back into place. I protested loudly, but I eventually let look at but not touch my arm. He promised me that putting it into place wouldn't hurt, and that if it did hurt, he would let the ward order pizza for dinner. (That was what the whole disagreement involving the mayonnaise-only food protest had been about in the first place; we wanted to use our own funds to purchase pizza and were not allowed because we hadn't done anything special to merit a celebration.) I held him off for about three minutes, but pretended to be interested when he showed me a bird's nest in a tree outside his window to distract me. He took me arm and gave it a few quick twists, popping the bone back. He didn't do it as quickly as I could have done myself, but he was probably trying to be gentle. By the time he had relocated the bone in my arm, Dr. Jeff had, of course, forgotten all about the mayonnaise revolt. He even gave me a Tootsie Pop for my troubles, and he paid for the pizza that we all ate for dinner that night.

The inmates in my facility call Dr. Jeff "John Edwards" behind his back because he has a large mirror in his office which he uses to look at himself in order to fix his hair. He looks at his images in any reflective surface he can find, including the clock outside the nurse's station and the high-gloss ebony grand piano that was moved up from the third floor because no one there uses it. Dr. Jeff doesn't like to wear his glasses because he thinks they make him look old, but he can't read anything without them. He apparently thinks appearing illiterate is preferable to looking his age. He wears white tennis shoes with his dark dress pants. No one knows if he thinks it looks good or if he's color blind, or if he feels that athletic shoes are necessary for his line of work (he never knows when he'll have to chase or run away from a crazy kid or adolescent, apparently) and doesn't realize athletic shoes can be purchased in dark colors as well as in white.

I could tell many more Dr. Jeff stories, but this post is much too long already. Another time I will share how Dr. Jeff has fallen for stories about of how aliens and Catholic saints visit me in my room at night, or that I can't have injections because my parents think I will learn to like the feeling, and it will lead to self-injurious behavior on my part. Other things I can't mention here at this time, because once I do, he will know the stories are false, and my dad will know I told blatant lies to a doctor. (My dad already knows now, or will by tomorrow morning, and I'm already going to be in trouble, but I will minimize the damage because I'm not a masochist.)

I must end this post by being fair. Dr. Jeff doesn't allow anyone on the staff to abuse me without dire consequences.(He probably feels that the privilege of abusing me is uniquely his.) If I have a bad headache, he tries every available remedy until he finds one that gets rid of my headache. If my dad is supposed to show up at the hospital and flakes out because his mind is on lymphoma and leukemia instead of on his only daughter, Dr. Jeff takes me to do what my dad had said I would get to do. If I'm tired of hospital beds and hospital food, he takes me home to stay with his family for the weekend. If I need to run, he puts on his running shorts (he's already wearing the shoes) and runs with me.

The entire experience surrounding my need to be a patient in a mental health ward is not one I would wish on anyone or one I would have chosen for myself, but I know it would have been worse if I weren't in Dr. Jeff's hospital.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Post-script to The Pseudos

I'm sitting on a runway. I'm in an airplane on the runway, by the way. It's not as though I'm attempting some sort of exercise in civil disobedience by staging a one-woman sit-in on an LAX runway, or anything similarly exciting.
My plane loaded and is ready to go, but something has unexpectedly delayed our departure. The pilot has graciously allowed the plane's occupants to use our technological devices, so I'm making use of this time to add a few notes about my pseudo-relatives before I rejoin them in Utah in a few hours or in many hours, depending upon the length of the flight delay.

As I was being driven to the airport by the director of my facility, who, as a licensed psychiatrist probably billed my parents' insurance carriers his full fee for out-of-office therapy for the entire time he was away from the facilty for the trip, he mentioned having read my most recent blogs. He noted that one might get the impression from reading my blogs about the Pseudos that I maintain the childish perception that they exist solely in their interactions with me, almost as though they are placed in a drawer each time they depart from my presence and remain tucked away until they are again needed to perform some service or function in my world.

If he read my blogs more extensively, the director would surely come to the conclusion that I write of each person whose name or description appears in my blog with that same egocentric view. My blog focuses typically upon my own life -- people, situations, and things I have encountered in the past or continue to face. I can't blog extensively about Fidel Castro or Kim Jong Il, because I don't know enough about them to write about them extensively, although Kim Jong Il would be a fascintating topic for an extensive blog if I had the time and access to primary sources of information. My obsession with Kim Jong Il notwithstanding, this blog focuses upon the thoughts of a seventeen-year-old girl -- me -- and the influences in the seventeen-year-old girl's life. As I see things, it wouldn't make sense to go off on tangents, speculating on things that may or may not have happened when I was not present, for the sole purpose of convincing any potential readers who may inadvertently stumble across this blog that I do not think I am the literal center of the universe. Still, it behooves me to present myslef in the most mature light possible in the view of the director of my facility, so I shall discuss my pseudo-relatives as human beings unrealted in any sense to me.

My Pseudo-Unlce, Scott, is twenty-seven years old. He is the youngest of seven children, six of whom survived infancy. His father, now retired, was formerly an engineer and a professor at Brigham Young University. scott's father is also a singer, and sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for twenty years, which is, I believe, the maximum number of years of affiliation with the Mo-Tab. Scott's mother was mostly a stay-at-home mother, although caring for young children was not necessarily conducive to her mental health. Fortunately for both her and her young children, she had inherited a not insignificant wad of cash, which provided nannies and other household help.

Scott's parents descended from Mormon pioneers who followed their religion all the way across America's vast prairie to what would eventually be known as Utah. Most of Scott's childhood took place in Utah, although he had the disctinction of having been born in Hawaii during his father's stint as a professor at one of bYU's satellite campuses located on Oahu's north shore.
Scott followed his religion as far as South America, where he served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At some point in the course of his two-year mission, a realization came to Scott that life for him perhaps had more to offer without the church-imposed ban on everything in life that he considered fun. Nevertheless, he completed his mission honorably before returning home to announce that he was forsaking the family religion.

Shortly after returning to Utah one Sunday morning in October, while virtually everyone else in his world was in church, Scott encountered a petite, raven-haired sixteen-year-old BYU tennis player while running in a park just below one of the area's canyons. Concerned for the safety of the attractive and unaccompained student-athlete, he returned to the same location at the same time each week. A friendship ensued. When the young woman reached the age of eighteen, Scott asked her out. They were formally engaged within a year, and married less than a month following her graduation from BYU.

In the meantime, Scott had completed his undergraduate degree in biophysics at Brigham Young University and had enrolled in the University of Utah Medical School in Salt Lake City. With financial support of his wife, who taught elementary school by day while attending law school by night, Scott focused on his studies and plodded through the four years of medical school.

As of this writing, Scott is poised to graduate from medical school this spring. He plans to begin a residency in pulmonology at a southern California hospital in July of this year.

As much as I would like to share more about Pseudo-Uncle in my endeavor to show the world that I know he exists independent of my assocations with him, I must discontinue at this time, as the pilot has ordered pasesngers to disengage electronic devices. Our plane is finally being allowed to take off.

Dr. Jeff, I hope you're satisfied with my effort.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Pseudos, Part Five

The summer I was sixteen, which was last summer, my parents were unsure of the feasibility of a kid-free vacation because I had suffered major injuries and illnesses during the spring. I had a serious compound fracture of my tibia and fibula, in addition to a less-serious fracture of my clavicle, from a hurdling injury, and had developed an infection which had nearly cost me my leg.

A month or so later, my parents had left me in the care of one of my father's sisters and her husband (an MD) because my mom was too sick to care for me and my dad and Aunt Heather, who sometimes fills in as a caregiver, both had to work. To say that the aunt and uncle who were to care for me (at a cost of five hundred dollars for one week of their services) were incompetent care providers would be a gross understatement. They left me more or less unattended in an attic, with diapers from their four-year-old's stash instead of the use of a bathroom and Spaghettios and stale sandwiches masquerading as meals. I already had a kidney infection when I got there, for which I was to receive nightly injections. I didn't receive the injections. Between the lack of injections and the lack of adequate food, care, or even a bathroom, I became much sicker. Then my aunt left the house with something cooking in the oven, which started smoking. I escaped, believing the house was on fire. A neighbor eventually drove by and saw me sitting on the curb in my nighty with smoke pouring out the front door. She called 9-1-1, and the rest is history, as is my relationship with that particular aunt and uncle. It was a close call as to whether my kidneys would recover, but they did.

My parents weren't sure about taking a vacation with a cast still on my leg,
but they eventually decided it would be OK to go to Alaska and that the Pseudos would be able to handle things for three-and-one-half weeks or so.
Right before I went to the Pseudos, I had been with my aunt and cousins to a place called "Cat Haven." While there I had become overheated, and in the process of cooling me, the staff had soaked my cast. I had to have a new cast. Either bacteria from Cat Haven or from the hospital where I got my new cast caused the skin on my leg to become infected. This wasn't as serious as the bone infection, but it did required me to go to the hospital in Utah.

When I got out of the hospital, I was weak, and Pseudo-Aunt was impatient because I could not do everything that I could do before. She was complaining about how little money they had as well, so I was afraid of eating very much. This caused me to feel weak and sick all the time. If we went somewhere, I would get weak while using my crutches, and Pseudo-Aunt would roll her eyes or sigh loudly. This made me feel worse. It felt almost as bad as the car ride from the airport to the apartment with Pseudo-Uncle, except it went on for about a week. Eventually Pseudo-Aunt and Uncle realized there was a problem and tried hard to make me feel more comfortable. They became almost like my parents. When I'm with them now, I still miss my mom and dad, but whem I'm with my mom and dad, I miss them.

They came to visit me several times, both at home and at my facility, since I was last at their apartment. I'm going back to visit them tomorrow. They have a new apartment, which supposedly isn't quite as ghetto as the last place. I'll believe that when I actually see the apartment and observe for myself that I can't hear the breathing of the next-door neighbors on either side. I'm curious to see if the furniture has been upgraded as well.

I don't really like Utah. When I'm there, I'm too likely to run into relatives on my dad's side, all of whom consider we either the incubus or the succubus. (I don't know the difference between the two terms, and it hasn't occurred to me to look th words up until now. as soon as I finish this, I'll look them up.) I do like being with my Pseudo-Aunt and Uncle. When they move to California and I can visit them there, I will be in heaven.

The Pseudos, Part Four

The summer i was fifteen, my parents had major no-kid vacation plans as well. My brother had since destroyed our uncle's dream of coaching a nephew to the summit of competitive tennis by electing to play high school baseball. My brother would be spending our parents' vacation time at a baseball camp that also operated a summer league. My parents couldn't really leave the country with my brother playing baseball because they needed to be available to fly to where he was in the event that he got hurt, but that still left forty-eight contiguous states through which they could travel. When I attended tennis camp, I usually got sick each year, and was only able to stay because my uncle ran the camp and my aunt was there as well. My parents didn't think the odd of my making it through a random summer camp were all that great. They chose, insead, to send me to pseudo-summer camp with my pseudo-aunt and uncle.

We didn't start out as complete strangers, but there was still a getting-used-to-each-other-all-over-again period. They had changed, and so had I, and it took some time to become reacquainted. Still, Pseudo-Uncle was never again so cold to me as he was on that ride from the airport the first summer. Their furniture from the previous year was no longer in their living room. I assume it must have gone to a garbage heap, because if they'd tried to donate it to the poor, they'd have been hard-pressed to find anyone poor enough to want it. Their "new" furniture was still someone's cast-offs, but they were apparently getting their cast-offs from someone with a slightly higher-calibre lifestyle. They were also buying real Kool-Aid instead of the store-brand variety.

That year my pseudo-aunt was teaching kindergarten in summer school. I went with her to summer school every day until the final week, when one germ factory who contantly had at least one finger up a nostril any time I looked at him eventually caught a respiratory virus and gave it to everyone else in the classroom. Pseudo-Auntie and I caught the bug; for her it ended up as pneumonia, and mine turned to croup. Even pneumonia did little to get in the way of the pseudos' poignant silences followed by their emerging in a disheveled state from a room in which they had been alone, and Pseudo-Uncle becoming suddenly very cheerful.

My croup was my only significant illnes of the summer, and my summer at pseudo-summer camp eneded more or less uneventfully except for the time we ran into my Aunt Marthalene, my father's sister, in a grocery store. actually she ran into us --literally -- with her shopping cart when she wasn't paying any attention to where she was going. True to form,my Aunt Marthalene, blamed Pseudo-Aunt for having the nerve to have her body within collision-range of her cart. I can say with9ut hesitation that my aunt Marthalene is one of my three least favorite relatives, with the other two being her husband, Mahonri (the one who steals toothpaste and toilet paper from us) and her father, who is also my grandfather. Once my aunt Marthalene recognized me, she stopped haranguing Pseudo-Aunt. She gave me the evil eye and quickly moved away.

Tying Up a Few Loose Ends

My dad has been here at the loony bin with me for the past two nights, His one-track mind lately has been fixated away from the usual track of discovering cures for leukemia (and/or lymphoma; I suppose his mind could more correctly be described as having two tracks)and onto the track of helping me to establish what he calls a "more sane" (but that I call a "more bourgeois") sleep schedule. He's given the staff strict orders to confiscate my technological devices at midnight and to impose strict sanctions if I manage to get them back into my possession by disengenious means before said possessions have been officially given back to me. I'm typing as fast as I can because the clock is about to strike midnight and Cinderella will soon turn back into a red-headed stepchild.

I haven't yet finished my series about the Pseudos, and I absolutely must finish it tomorrow because I'm leaving to visit them in less than thirty-six hours, and it wouldn't be right to trash them while I'm accepting their hospitality. I therefore promise to finish the series tomorrow.

My dad finally found something to take my headache away. I was beginning to think it might be with me forever. I hear footsteps. To re-phrase a song from the sixties, "They're coming to take my computer away, ha, ha. . ."

Until later.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Interruption to Multi-Post Series on the Pseudos: Civil Rights Involved

When I first came to this loony bin, I tried to keep an open mind about everything I was forced to do. Not hungry? Eat anyway. Not tired? Get in bed and count sheep. Don't feel much like weaving any baskets today? In order to maintain the basic rights of life and the pursuit of happiness (our liberty, if you've forgotten, has already been unceremoniously usurped because we're bat$h!t crazy) as outlined by Thomas Jeffersonin the Declaration of Independence, we must produce our quota of baskets, which are probably being billed as artistic creations by the mentally challenged and sold for big bucks to wealthy do-gooders. Not in the mood for dancing? That is where I must draw the line.

Yesterday, while my fellow inmates and I were in the throes of forced mirth-making otherwise known as recreational therapy, the chief recreational therapist [I'm surely not the first person to point this out, but have you ever noticed that if a space is strategically inserted between the e and r , instead of therapist, it reads the rapist.
This is altogether fitting, as therapists rape the minds of their subjects using any means available to them] announced out of the blue that we would all perform a little dance. Then she played a recording. It was a most infamous recording, I might add. The song was the base, coarse, ignoble, abject [I recognize redundancy when I write it, but I'm trying to make a point of just how utterly plebian this song is] "Cotton-Eyed Joe." This presented for me a conflict of sorts. I generally try to cooperate with the mind rapists around here in order to avoid the loss of any privileges, but there are levels to which I will not stoop, and there are dances, four to be exact, that I will not do: 4. YMCA; 3. The Macarena; 2. The Chicken Dance; 1. Cotton-Eyed Joe.

If you're from The United Kingdom or some similarly blessed locale that hasn't been corrupted by "Cotton-Eyed Joe," you could probably catch a quick video of it on YouTube, but I must warn you that after viewing the video, you'll probably have an irresistible urge to scrub yourself with antibacterial soap under water so hot as to sterilize your skin. It's a crepy-crawly "Deliverance" kind of song. I'd sooner imitate Lady Godiva by riding a horse nude down main street - and I don't particularly like horses-- than dance to "Cotton-Eyed Joe." While I can be difficult at times, I understand the need for the recreational rapist not to have the inmate population scorning her activities; I politely said I had a headache and needed to sit this one out in another room. I wasn't totally lying, as I did have a really bad headache, but I would have tried to stick it out if the activity had been anything except one of my "refuse to do under all circumstances, as in even if a gun was pointed at my head" dances.

Instead of either accepting my self-excusal at face value or accepting that I found her choice of activity too lame even for my basically undiscriminating standards, the recreational rapist dragged me past the nurse's station, pushed me into my room, took my computer and phone, and closed the door. Then she called the director, who was supposed to be off all weekend.

The director took his time getting to the hospital, as was his right since his time was technically supposed to be his own this weekend, but he eventually showed up about four hours ago. He came in, asked what the problem was, then said he would phone my parents to ask what they wanted him to do about it. He came back a few minutes later with a syringe. I was afraid it might be a psychotropic drug, but he told me it would stop my headache without upsetting my stomach. Tylenol doesn't usually work for me when I have a headache; Ibuprofen upsets my stomach, and aspirin, which I can't take because of Reye Sybdrome concerns, presumably would upset my stomach as well.

After he gave ne the shot, the director said my parents told him to give me something for my headache and to take me home with him for the weekend. He told me to bring my entire suitcase so that I could do my laundry while I was there. On the way out of the ward, he made a point of asking the recrational rapist for my computer and phone, and handing them both to me in front of her. He probably didn'y earn any brownie points with his staff, but maybe the ruder ones will stop messing with me.

I slept off the headache for a couple of hours in a comfortable bed. The director's wife is taking their daughter and me to get our hair trimmed and our nails done in a few minutes. We're watching movies tonight. If i feel good tomorrow, I get to go hurdling and diving.

Note to the Pseudos: I have a really annoying habit of starting series and not finishing them, but I promise to get back to your series very soon.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Pseudos: Part Three

(Note: The goons who took away my computer last night have failed to materialize tonight. It behooves me, therefore, to take advantage of their dereliction of duties by quickly cranking out another saga in the exciting chronicles of my time with the pseudo-relatives. I've been very busy in the daytime with helping my peers academically, primarily by distracting the teacher who comes in daily to supervise their studies, so that they can actually complete their assignments. I'll write more abouut that, which is a story in and of itself, at some other time.)

So the ice was essentially broken in my new relationhip with my Pseudo-Aunt
and Uncle. Even though my Pseudo-Aunt is only six years older than I, it was then and is still as though she's now of a different generation. It's easy to think of her more as an aunt than as a cousin, which was a more correct characterization of our relationship while she was still growing up. When we met up with her acquaintances, she usually just introduced me as her niece so that she didn't have to go into the convoluted story of just how screwed up my family was and still is. Pseudo-Uncle is four years older than she, so even if I had known him in the earlier years, he probably never would have seemed like a peer. He contimnued to treat me as a child much younger than I was, but as long as he was nice, which he always was after the initial encounter, it didn't bother me.

We got through that first summer almost without incident. The most noteworthy occurence was when I developed croup, which I still get from time to time. I tried to tell the Pseudos what to do about it, but Pseudo-Aunt called her parents (her mom's an R. N. and her dad's an OB-GYN), and they said I needed to be taken to the hospital. So at 11:45 p.m. the Pseudos loaded me into a car in my pajamas and drove to an emergency room in a city next to the one in which they lived. The hospital in their home city has a reputation for killing off relatively healthy people, so they were taking no chances; we went instead to a hospital where Pseudo-Uncle's brother had privileges as an attending physician. Pseudo-Uncle carried
me in and told me to do my best barking seal imitation to make it appear as serious as possible and to shorten our wait time. It worked; I was seen immediately.

Nurses hooked me up to an IV. I was given IV antibiotics and injections of steroids and too many other drugs to remember. I was placed into some sort of oversized crib thing, and a steam tent was set up over it. At some point in the night I was relocated from the E. R. to a regular room. Pseudo-Uncle's physician brother came to check me out after I had succumbed to drugs and was asleep. I don't remember much about his visit, but I do remember thinking that he wasn't nearly as good-looking as his younger brother. I hope I didn't say it out loud. The Pseudos stayed diligently by my bed through the night. I'm sure they didn't want to have to call my parents and tell them I was dead, because they might not have gotten paid if that had happened.

The only other noteworthy happening was when we went to an LDS church We didn't go to any other churches during my stay there. Pseudo Uncle supposedly converted to Catholicism before their wedding, but I saw no overt evidence that either one of them was taking religion overly seriously. For that matter, one doesn't go to Utah to hang out in Catholic churches. To do so would be akin to going to Rome for the purpose of checking out the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The reason for our visit to the LDS church was to be present for the blessing of Pseudo-Uncle's niece. I tried hard to convince the Pseudos to allow me to stay at their apartment by myself, but, for whatever reason, they would not allow it. They had told my parents they would babyit me, and they were intent on babysitting me whether I needed babyitting or not.
On the way to the Church, I told them about the time I was blessed and how witnessing this might cause me to have ugly flashbacks. I suggested that they might want to stop the car and let me out so that I didn't scream during the night and wake up the neighbors' babies through the cardstock-thin walls. Pseudo-Uncle said that if I did wake up the neighbors' babies, it would only be justice, because they had certainly woken him up enough in the months he'd been living in the apartment. Short of faking an epileptic seizure, which would have been a stretch even for me, I had no other trump cards to play. There was no option except to go to the @%$^* LDS church service.

I've been to LDS churches a few times for family events. There is a certain sameness pertaining to LDS chapels: if you've been to one, you might as well have been to them all, and once you've been inside, you'd never mistake an LDS chapel for a church of any other denomination. It's familiar in other ways as well. Mediocre organ music (played by a mediocre-at-best organist on a mediocre-at-best organ) combined with the sound of restless toddlers and cranky babies, mixed in with the scent of Cheerios, spit-up milk, and diapers, then tossed into uncomfortable pews, all blend to form a multi-sensory experience that is unique to a Mormon chapel on a Sunday. It was instant deja vu, and not the happy kind of deja vu.

Then what for me was almost the worst thing happened: my father's sister Elise and her family walked in. I was seated between Pseudo-Aunt and Pseudo-Uncle's seven-year-old niece. I immediately pulled the seven-year-old, who was nearly as big as I (she's the one who almost caused me to be a flower girl when she got chicken pox because her dress fit me) onto my lap and told her to stay there no matter what. Pseudo-Aunt asked what was wrong. I told her. She didn't say anything, but when the seven'year'old's dad told her to get off my lap, Pseudo-Aunt explained it to him, and the child was allowed to remain as my human decoy.

Eventually the first part of church ended, and the little kids went off to Primary. Then my biological aunt noticed me. She just glared in my direction. I glared back at her. Pseudo-Uncle started singing some LDS kiddy song about how families can be together forever. Pseudo-Aunt told him to stop before he gave me nightmares.

It seemed eerie that, of all the LDS wards in Utah (I have no idea how many there are, but the count must be in the tens of thousands) the one I went to had to be among the approximately ten in which members of my dad's family would be present, which would have put the odds at greater than one in one thousand. Mormonism seems consistently to defy odds in that way.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Pseudos, Part Two

I would like to issue an apology to anyone who happened to read my last blog. It ended at a point at which I would not have chosen to end it. I would have, at the very least, started the follow-up post immediately. Such things, however, are not entirely up to me. The people charged with my care sometimes find it necessary to treat me as a six-year-old instead of as the very nearly adult that I am.

When my post was discontinued, I had just gotten into Pseudo-Uncle's car at the Joseph Smith International Airport (or whatever it is that the SLC airport is officially named) and was riding with him to the lovely paradisiacal village in Utah County where I would spend the next month. I feared that the upcoming month would be the longest month of my life. I was already privy to the knowledge that time is not absolute -- thst one minute can be, in actuality, longer than another, despite what any clock says to the contrary -- because the thirty-five minutes in the car with Pseudo-Uncle, with no sound except for that produced by the car stereo, was, up to that point, the longest thirty-five minutes of my life.

When we arrived at the Pseudos' dismal apartment complex, rife with dead-eyed mothers half-supervising their saggy-diapered babies and dirty-faced toddlers in a toy-strewn area euphemistically dubbed a "courtyard," Pseudo-Uncle took my suitcase from the trunk and carried it through the "courtyard" and up the staircase, still at a pace my legs couldn't maintain. As I reached the door through which he had disappeared, my Pseudo-Aunt appeared just long enough to give me a perfunctory hug.

My Pseudo-Aunt is of Cuban descent and is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Both her parents are immigrants, but they came to this country at young enough ages that they speak unaccented English. Pseudo-Aunt doesn't even speak Spanish. She's petite and thin, with long black hair, fair skin for a Latina, dark-chocolate-brown eyes, and proportionately long legs, muscular from years of daily tennis practice and related conditioning. She was at that time a recent BYU graduate, which was a curious choice of a university for a Roman Catholic. She had selected BYU because she had been offered a privately funded full-ride scholar-athlete package. While her parents had qualms about sending their only daughter off to a Mormon university, a gift worth roughly eighty-thousand dollars was difficult to reject. Following graduation, Pseudo-Aunt was slated to enter J. Reuben Clark School of Law at BYU. There was the pesky matter of rent and food money, neither of which Pseudo-Uncle would be in a position to earn as a first-year medical school student. To pay the bills, Pseudo-Aunt would work as an elementary school teacher, in a grade that had yet to be determined, while carrying a full load of law school courses. Pseudo-Uncle, in the meantime, was working that summer as a paramedic with a local agency. The money my parents were paying these people to keep me out of everyone else's hair was much needed.

Pseudo-Aunt is six years older than I. I had known her as a child and young teenager, but once she reached fifteen or so, she had essentially slipped off the radar as far as I was concerned. When we visited her family or when her family visited us, she either wasn't living at home or was away from the house most of the time. When I saw her at her wedding less than three months earlier, it was probably the first time in six years that I had seen her. She was, for practical purposes, a stranger to me, though we had an element of shared history.

The virtual stranger who hugged me was then pulled by the arm into the "master bedroom suite" by her new husband, and the door was closed.
I could make out snippets of the hushed conversation. "You said she was fourteen !" "She is fourteen!." "She can't be fourteen." "She is!" [something I coullnd't hear] "little kid! Won't even be able to leave her unsupervised for five minutes!"

Then the room went dead silent. This would happen a lot that summer as well as the following two summers. Any time those two were behind a closed door for even a few moments, there would inevitably be dead silence. Then they would emerge and Pseudo-Uncle would, without fail, be in a much more positive state of mind than he had been just minutes earlier. I was a sheltered child, but I eventually figured out the meaning of those brief but significant periods of silence. At least the Pseudos didn't make it awkward for me with loud moaning or anything of that sort. It was easy enough for me to pretend to be even more clueless than I actually was.

The Pseudos came out of the room looking slightly disheveled but with smiles on their faces. I was standing in their living room pretending to be interested in a framed wedding picture on the wall. The Pseudos hadn't invited me to sit down, and I didn't know if any of the furniture was off-limits to children, although if what I saw was their good furniture, I hated to speculate about the quality of their grungy stuff. Pseudo-Uncle took my shoulders and steered me around the curiously out-of-place ebony grand piano to an ottoman, where he sat, facing me. He smiled and said, "Let's try this again. I'm Scott." He paused, then said, "And you're supposed to say --"

"I'm Alexis," I filled in the blank he had created.

He stuck out his hand.

"Pleased to meet you," I said as I shook his hand.

"The pleasure is mine," he responded.

Pseudo-Aunt helped me put my clothing and possessions away in the spare room and bathroom, and asked me to help her with dinner preparations. Pseudo-Uncle played a few Chopin etudes on the piano as we cooked and set the table, complete with linens, Wexford china, flowers, and candles. I can remember feeling a bit chagrined at the realization that he was more skilled as a pianist than I was. The scene was mildly surreal -- helping to cook some sort of Cuban culinary creation that I wouldn't touch, much less eat, in a tiny cardboard-walled apartment, with the sounds of crying babies and whining toddlers coming through from the neighboring apartments on either side, while the lord of the manor played away obliviously at his Kawai grand. Still, at least the summer wasn't going to be spent in complete silence.

TO BE CONTINUED (At least I had five minutes' warning before my computer was confiscated tonight.)

The Pseudos. Part One

I spent the past weekend with a couple neither of whom are my biological relatives. The wife's father and my father are longtime best friends. When I was growing up my family sometimes vacationed with the wife's family. Her parents are my brother's Godparents. When I became very ill while my mom was fighting leukemia, and my father couldn't care for me because he was both working and caring for my mom, he took me to Florida to stay with the wife's parents because there was no one he trusted as much to take care of his sick child. A few summers ago, shortly after they were married, the couple agreed to babysit me (even though at fourteen I was too old to need a babysitter) when my parents took a no-kids vacation. It aounds insane for newlyweds to take in a fourteen-year-old, and it probably was, but they were desperate for money. My parents took similar vacations the next two summers, and I stayed with the couple both times. My cyber-friend Rebecca began referring to this couple as the Pseudos, as in my pseudo-aunt and uncle. I now usually refer to them as such, and for ease of reference will do so here.

Because this is a semi-public forum and the subjects of this post will almost certainly read it at some point, I cannot be as open as I might otherwise be. Still, I'm not, for the most part, known for displaying much reserve in my writing. What would be the point of suddenly changing courses now? I will, as is usual, write things as I have observed them to be. The chips, if any, may fall wherever they fall.

The Pseudos have been with me through some of my life's more eventful times, and I have been with them from very early in their marriage. I've known Pseudo-Aunt since shortly after I was born. I met Pseudo-Uncle the day before their wedding. I attended their wedding and even played violin during part of the ceremony. I am loathe to mention that I was very nearly called into service as a replacement flower girl when the originally designated one broke out with chicken pox about forty-eight hours before the wedding. The dress intended for the seven-year-old first-string flowere girl would have fit me with the need of only the most minor of alterations. It was only through my quick thinking (my good friend's chubby little sister had just worn in another wedding a dress that fit perfectly into the Pseudos' color scheme) that Pseudo-Uncle's other young niece was able to be suitably attired in order to stand in as the flower girl. When he wishes to annoy me, Pseudo-Uncle loves to beat the proverbial dead mare and drone on about what a lovely fourteen-year-old flower girl I would have been.

The very first summer I spent with the Pseudos happened just before my brother and I were to fly east to attend a tennis camp operated by my uncle, who is a university tennis coach. Since we were ten, the combined Christmas birthday gift this uncle and his wife had given us was free tuition to his tennis camp. It was to be a three-week session. Because my parents' vacation planned for the same time was to last closer to four weeks, the plan was for my brother and me to spend a week with my aunt and uncle in addition to the three weeks at tennis camp. Just a week or so before we were to depart for tennis camp, my uncle called and rescinded my half of the invitation. He (my uncle) had experienced some sort of an epiphany, which suddenly made it clear to him that no matter how well he taught me to play tennis, my size was incompatible with the ability to succeed at the higher levels of competitive tennis. All those years years I thought my uncle had been teaching us tennis because he was a nice guy and so that we could have fun. In retrospect, however, he had other plans, and I no longer literally or figuratively fit into them. I admit that I was most gratified when my brother delivered the ultimate diss to this uncle by choosing baseball over tennis in high school.

My parents had non-refundable pre-paid expenses for a Eurpoean vacation, and no place for me to stay. I normally would have stayed with my Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather, but they, too, planned to be on vacation for much of that same time. I made my own arrangements to stay with the family of a friend, but my parents didn't feel right about burdening a random family, who most likely had no idea just what they were getting into by agreeing to be responsible for me for almost a month. Then someone -- I'm not sure who it was -- came up with the brilliant plan of foisting me off on a couple of newlyweds, who were so lacking in means that they went along with it.

On the same day that my brother caught a plane to the east coast for a month of fun and relative freedom, I caught another plane to the peculiar and desolate State of the Deseret otherwise known as Utah. The place where I would be staying was not far from my grandparents' home, but I wouldn't have agreed to stay with my paternal grandparents even if they'd agreed to take me in, which they most definitely would not have. The last time my grandparents took care of me -- when I was two -- solidified their notion that I was the spawn of Satan.

I spotted Pseudo-Uncle easily and pointed him out to the airline employee who escorted me through the airport to the baggage claim area. pseudo-uncle is six feet three inches tall with a slender yet muscular build, dark blond hair, bright blue eyes, skin that tans in the summer, and is, overall, rather striking and not easy to miss even in a crowd of Nordic-descended Mormons. He was probably the man that every female on the plane secretly wished was there to meet her.

I had been at his wedding less than three months earlier, but Pseudo-Uncle seemed to have no recollection whatsoever of every having laid eyes on me. His face held an expression of discontent or annoyance. I wondered if he was irritated by the interruption of his afternoon for a trip to to the airport, or if he was bothered more by the month-long interruption of his honeymoon. He spoke briefly with the airline employee, showing her his ID, then shook my hand and said, "I'm Scott," but didn't smile or make any attempt at conversation. As I spotted my suitcase and moved to retrieve it from the rotating carousel, he reached past me and lifted it. Even carrying the heavy suitcase, he walked to his car at a pace that I had to jog to maintain. He put my suitcase into his trunk, then opened the door and got into his car. I opened his front passenger door, but there were several books on the seat, and he didn't offer to move them. I can remember thinking that he probably had left them there on purpose. I closed the door, opened the rear door, and got into the back seat. He turned his radio on after he started the car. I noticed him looking at me in his rearview mirror a few times, but he still didn't speak.

Except for my Uncle Steve and his wife and kids, everyone on my dad's side of the family hates me, so I was used to being places where I wasn't necessarily welcome, but I had been with my parents anytime I visited the homes of my paternal relatives. I used my fingers to wipe away the tears that escaped despite my resolve not to cry. If he noticed, Scott gave no indication of it.